There were six babies born at Columbia Hospital for Women on Christmas Day, and after they'd been checked out and cleaned up, they were handed to their moms swaddled in jaunty red Christmas stockings. In the rooms of the maternity ward yesterday, happy parents and relatives marveled at these miracles of new life.
"This is the funniest Christmas baby," said Lynne Landsberg, lying in her bed cuddling her sleeping little Jesse Landsberg Ward (8 pounds 2 ounces; 5:18 a.m.) on her chest. "After all, I'm a rabbi. And he's going to be a doctor. The pressure's on, kid!"
In a nearby sitting area, Lisa Thornton noted that her boy, Brandon (6 pounds 3 1/2 ounces; 2:33 p.m.), who was at that moment being checked by a nurse in another room, represents the fifth living generation of her family, his great-great-grandparents, Samuel and Mary Page, being residents of Northwest Washington. "My fiance, Sean, was asking what I wanted for Christmas," she said, "and I said, 'All I want for Christmas is a healthy baby,' and that's what I got!"
In another room, family members gathered around Claudette Bryant, whose daughter Giselle (8 pounds 9 ounces; 11:51 p.m.) was also temporarily away, being changed by a nurse. Her husband, Scott, said that their 3-year-old son, Christophe, had predicted this Christmas birth. "We were in a Pizza Hut," said Scott, "and he just came up and said, 'Mama, when are you having Baby Jesus?' "
Clara Barton, Humphrey Bogart, Evangeline Cory Booth, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Isaac Newton and Rebecca West were born on Christmas Day. So were Jimmy Buffett, Cab Calloway, Rickey Henderson, Barbara Mandrell and Sissy Spacek. Here are a few bits of preliminary information concerning three others whose destinies are yet to be written.
Jesse Landsberg Ward's parents decided to have him late in the game. His mother, Lynne, is 39 and his dad, Dennis, who works for a construction company, is 43. They married two years ago and, according to Lynne, "amazed our parents with the wedding, and now with the baby."
Lynne was a congregational rabbi in New York City and Staunton, Va., before moving to the Washington area. Now she works in the social justice office of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and finds it "pretty ironic that my baby was delivered in a Christmas stocking. But I guess if a rabbi has a baby on Christmas Day, you have to roll with it."
"I'm just happy to have a baby," said her husband.
"I'm worried that on his birthday his Christian friends won't be able to come to his birthday party," said Lynne.
They laughed, this after all not ranking at the top of the list of life's problems, and she added a serious observation: "I've always been a fan of this season because of the message that Hanukah and Christmas bring to us. My only concern about the holiday season is that very often children suffer, especially where they live as minorities in intolerant communities, because this season is not their own -- Jewish kids, or nonreligious kids, or Buddhist kids, or kids in the increasingly large Moslem community. I'm very sensitive to that."
At which point in bustled her own mom, Bobbie Landsberg of Long Island, N.Y., with a big "It's a Boy" balloon, which she tied to the bedrail.
"That's a good boy," she said, fussing over her fifth grandchild, who had just awakened and was crying gently. Feeding time.
Brandon is Lisa Thornton's first baby. She is 21 and has been working as a legal assistant while studying accounting at the University of Maryland. Her fiance, Sean Owens, is the financial manager of a suburban Maryland car dealership. They did it the Lamaze way, with Sean working at her side from the beginning of labor late Christmas Eve until the birth more than 14 difficult hours later.
"He was great, he was very supportive," said Lisa, who at this point was lying in bed with her infant on her chest, having just finished a telephone conversation with her mother, Sandra Blount. Sean sat nearby in the colorful maroon jogging suit Lisa had given him for Christmas, looking at his son and his wife-to-be with a big smile.
"He has quite a head of hair," was about all he could say, shaking his head in wonderment over this astonishing fact.
"He never missed my doctor's appointments, he didn't leave my side for a minute," said Lisa, looking up at Sean devotedly. "He cried when he saw his son for the first time; he said, 'That's the little person, there he is, that's what it was all that time.' "
Lisa also recounted one of those strange events that seem to mark so many lives at times like this. Her own father, who lives in Georgia and has been out of touch with her for five years, called out of the blue on Christmas. "He woke up in the morning, and for some reason I was on his mind," said Lisa. "He said he was too young to be a grandfather."
Sean said he'd like more children. "I'd like two," he said.
"Oh yeah?" said Lisa, laughing. "Where you going to get the other one from?"
Little Giselle's parents, the Bryants, are both 27. Claudette is a makeup artist and Scott, who was expertly wielding a video camera in her room and up and down the hallways, is a fashion photographer. His father, Jim, was on hand, and his stepmother, Meg Falk, and his brother, Greg, who is just about to enter Officers Candidate School in Quantico, on his way, he hopes, to a career in Marine aviation.
"I feel conflicting emotions," said Claudette. "You feel concern because she'll always have to celebrate her birthday at Christmas, but at the same time it's an incredible present. You wonder, When will we celebrate her birthday? Will she feel cheated?"
On the table next to the bed was a small Farm Sound Friends toy.
Scott's idea is to kick off the whole round of Christmas decorating and gift buying with the birthday celebration -- not do anything Christmasy before that. "It would be the beginning of everything," he said speculatively, trying out this thought.
"Well anyway," said Mom, "she won't know anything about this for several years."
Giselle herself, at this point, was in the Main Baby Room -- the one behind the big plate-glass window where everybody stands and looks in at the babies aligned in rows in their plastic-shielded beds -- being changed by a nurse.
Out in the hallway, Scott had abandoned his video camera and was vigorously trying to keep Christophe and their other daughter, Arielle, 22 months, in line. Arielle was scrambling around in his arms, wailing and trying to keep her grip on a balloon that said "A New Born Girl."
"Look!" said grandfather Jim, "They're about to change her diaper."
Everyone peered through the plate glass, entranced. Even Arielle calmed down.
"You see the diaper change?" said Scott. "That's your sister. You see your baby sister?"
"Yes!" said Arielle. "Yes! Yes!"